Storytelling through sculpture

Storytelling through sculpture

By: Melissa Cohen

Thami Kitty is an upcoming South African artist and sculpture whose work is not only uniquely South African, but is also educational and dramatic. He has been interested in materials such as wood and clay since a young age, and has been strongly influenced by his cultural and rural background.
Kitty was interested in using the various raw materials in order to create something completely new, this allowing him to use his artistic gift as a mode of expression. His latest exhibition, which is running until July 27 at the Cape Gallery, is called ‘Invocation’. “It is mainly aimed at showing how my sculptures are able to come to life and can be interpreted in many different ways,” says Kitty.
‘Invocation’ exhibits a variety of Kitty’s sculptures, which are not only sculptures, but also marionette puppets. The puppets are made out of wood and are controlled by many strings attached to a main wooden stick. “The sculptures take about a week to make. It is a lot of work, but I really enjoy making them,” discusses Kitty.

Kitty has ensured that his characters are symbolic of his child-like attitude to life, as well as being able to educate people about his life and childhood. Two animals form the main focus of the exhibition, namely the leopard and the hornbill. Both of these animals are symbolic to Kitty and his rural childhood. “The leopard is symbolic of the transition to becoming a man in my culture. Once a male has gone to the bush to be circumcised, he is then seen as a man and this is related to the powerful animal,” he says.

The hornbill is another one of Kitty’s puppet sculptures and he mentions that this bird reminds him of the river that he was not allowed to cross during his time in the bush. While he would sit at the river bank, he would see many hornbills jumping around the river. He says that this really intrigued him and it brought back memories from his childhood.
Although Kitty doesn’t have a studio of his own, he would love to go overseas and educate children through his puppets. He would love to teach them about African culture through storytelling and puppetry. “I want people to know about my culture and the childhood I have experienced. I have created these puppets as a way to tell my stories,” says the artist. This exhibition is definitely something not to be missed as it not only encompasses art and sculpture, but also ritual, puppetry and storytelling.

* The Cape Gellery is situated on 60 Church Street in Cape Town.
Gallery Hours are from 9.30am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays, and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm.
For more information, call 021 423 5309, send an email to, or visit